Celebrities demand Brunei hotel ban

Celebrities have called for a boycott against nine exclusive hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah (pictured), after sharia law making gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death went into effect yesterday (Wednesday).

Homosexuality was already illegal in the tiny state on Borneo and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The country first introduced sharia law in 2014, despite widespread condemnation, but a stricter, full sharia penal code was fully implemented yesterday.

Gay men can be stoned to death while lesbian sex carries a lighter penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and up to 10 years in jail.

The Dorchester Collection of hotels, some of the most exclusive in the world, are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles are particularly busy during the awards season. Other hotels in the list include the Dorchester in London and Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.

The sultan’s honorary doctorate from King’s College London could be rescinded and Aberdeen University has begun an “urgent review” into the honorary degree given to Hassanal in 1995.

Students at Oxford have called on the university to strip the monarch of his honorary degree.

Hollywood celebrities focused on the hotel chain.

George Clooney wrote on the website Deadline: “Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”

The actor said he did not think a boycott would shame Brunei’s monarchy “but you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way”.

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres called on her Twitter followers to “spread the word” and “rise up”, which was rapidly retweeted more than 70,000 times.

Elton John said he had avoided staying at Brunei-owned hotels for years.

Los Angeles City Council proposed a resolution condemning the government of Brunei “for adopting laws that impose extreme and inhumane penalties”. It discouraged people from using the two Los Angeles hotels unless the law was repealed.

The Dorchester Collection said the company did “not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

“Dorchester Collection’s code emphasises equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation, and strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees,” the group’s statement said.

In 2014, Los Angeles City Council urged Brunei “to divest itself of the Beverly Hills Hotel” in response to the first set of sharia punishments for adultery, abortion and homosexuality.

Numerous cancellations at the time did not prompt the sultan to sell the assets and the celebrity entourages eventually returned.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Picture credit: Kremlin